Dallas' Traveling Man statues tell the freewheeling tale of a magic robot.

Dallas’ Traveling Man Statues Tell the Freewheeling Tale of a Magic Robot

Dallas’ Traveling Man Statues Tell the Freewheeling Tale of a Magic Robot

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
April 17 2015 2:45 PM

The Ballad of the Traveling Man: The Story of Texas’ Giant Folktale Robot

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Depending on which corner of Dallas' Deep Ellum neighborhood you find yourself in, you'll catch a different chapter of the story of giant robot known as the Traveling Man, be it his birth, his stroll, or his rest. 

The three large installations in the neighborhood are the work of artist Brad Oldham, who created the figures to replace a previous bunch of murals that were once seen as the welcome mat of the neighborhood. The murals had to be taken down due to construction of a light rail system, and The Traveling Man statues were born. Each of the figures is built of polished metal sheets held together with rivets, all meant to evoke the railway history of the neighborhood of Deep Ellum.  


Moving from one statue to another, the story of the Traveling Man proceeds from birth to life. The first statue, called Awakening, features just a portion of the Traveling Man's head and one of his clamps emerging from a pit of gravel as one of his songbird pals looks on. According to the story devised by the planners of the robot mascot, the Traveling Man began life as a regular locomotive buried beneath an elm tree, but when a splash of gin was spilled on the roots of the tree, the weird folktale transformer emerged from the ground

Continuing down Good Latimer Street, you next find the huge robot reclining against a piece of debris salvaged from one of Deep Ellum's old rail tunnels. This time the Traveling Man is represented in full, with a smile and a guitar as he sits, his legs leisurely crossed, in a piece known as Waiting on the Train.

Finally the Traveling Man lives up to his name in the last, and tallest, piece of the three. In Walking Tall, the Traveling Man is seen taking a jaunty stroll with his avian sidekicks on his arm and around his feet. 

The Traveling Man, in all of his forms, is located not far from the Deep Ellum light rail station, making him the ambassador for the area. He reminds visitors and locals alike not only of the neighborhood's history with trains, but also its more recent history as a cradle for the arts.

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Eric Grundhauser is a head writer and editor at Atlas Obscura. He lives in Brooklyn with his comic book collection. Follow him on Twitter.